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Critical Perspectives on Classicism in Japanese Painting, 1600-1700

Elizabeth Lillehoj

Publication Year: 2004

In the West, classical art—inextricably linked to concerns of a ruling or dominant class—commonly refers to art with traditional themes and styles that resurrect a past golden era. Although art of the early Edo period (1600–1868) encompasses a spectrum of themes and styles, references to the past are so common that many Japanese art historians have variously described this period as a "classical revival," "era of classicism," or a "renaissance." How did seventeenth-century artists and patrons imagine the past? How did classical manners relate to other styles and themes found in Edo art? In considering such questions, the contributors to this volume hold that classicism has been an amorphous, changing concept in Japan—just as in the West. The authors of the essays collected here are by no means unanimous in their assessment of the use of the label "classicism." Although they may not agree on a definition of the term and its applicability to seventeenth-century Japanese art, all recognize the relevance of recent scholarly currents that call into question methods that privilege Western culture. Their various approaches—from stylistic analysis and theoretical conceptualization to assessment of related political and literary trends—greatly increase our understanding of the art of the period and its function in society.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

This book is based on a symposium, “Classicism in Japanese Art of the Early Edo Period,” which was sponsored by the Ruth and Sherman Lee Institute for Japanese Art at the Clark Center in Hanford, California, in June 1999. Many of the institute’s goals are similar to those of other museums both large and small—in particular, collecting, exhibiting, and preserving works of art and ...

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pp. 1-20

In Japan, the seventeenth century was a time of remarkable artistic innovation developing in the midst of ineluctable social change. A protracted phase of civil strife had ended, and a triumphant military clan was inaugurating a new regime of power. This clan, the Tokugawa, installed their administration—a military government (bakufu) headed by a shogun—at Edo, launching the ...

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Chapter One. Terminology and Ideology: Coming to Terms with “Classicism” in Japanese Art-Historical Writing

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pp. 21-52

The very title of this book, Critical Perspectives on Classicism in Japanese Painting, 1600–1700, and the assembled chapters—all of which refer to the seemingly familiar Western concept of classicism—compel us to pose a set of questions. What does it mean when we characterize a period as being “classic” in a European context, and what does it mean when we apply this expression to ...

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Chapter Two. Tawaraya Sōtatsu and the “Yamato-e Revival”

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pp. 53-78

Modern Japanese art historians typically identify Tawaraya Sōtatsu (d. 1643?) as an independent town painter (machi-eshi) active in the city of Kyoto in the early Edo period (1600–1868), or more specifically around 1630.1 Sometime before 1630, the court appointed him to the rank of hokkyō (Bridge of the Law) owing to his great talent, and they provided him with many imperial commissions.2 ...

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Chapter Three. The Patrons of Tawaraya Sōtatsu and Ogata Kōrin

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pp. 79-98

Recent research on the history of Japanese art reveals that a construct known as Japanese art history (Nihon bijutsu shi) began emerging at the start of Japan’s modern era, that is, during the Meiji period (1868–1912) and the Taishō period (1912–1926). This construct contributed to the formation of a Japanese sense of national identity in the early twentieth century and, consequently, ...

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Chapter Four. Japanese Exemplars for a New Age: Genji Paintings from the Seventeenth-Century Tosa School

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pp. 99-132

Is it correct to apply the terms “classicism” and “classical revival” to early Edo art? My own position has changed since 1998, when I coorganized the symposium on which this volume is based. The routine employment—and apparent acceptance—of such terms by most scholars of Japanese art and literature notwithstanding, applying a system of Western aesthetic principles to the study ...

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Chapter Five. A New “Classical” Theme: The One Hundred Poets from Elite to Popular Art in the Early Edo Period

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pp. 133-168

Although the One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each collection (Hyakunin isshu), edited by Fujiwara no Teika (1162–1241) in the 1230s, was esteemed as the preeminent compilation of Japanese poetry by the fourteenth century, it did not become a theme for visual art until the early seventeenth century. This fact is surprising when we remember that the genre of imaginary portraits of famous poets ...

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Chapter Six. Classical Imagery and Tokugawa Patronage: A Redefinition in the Seventeenth Century

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pp. 169-186

In art, however, “classical” most commonly refers to a work of the highest rank or importance that becomes a model. For at least five centuries, Western art history has located such a model in the perfected human image and pure forms of Greek art and architecture.1 But in Japanese painting, themes and styles were not consistently revived from a single time period, nor did they comprise ...

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Chapter Seven. Uses of the Past: Gion Float Paintings as Instruments of Classicism

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pp. 187-206

A close study of one set of artworks—the Gion Festival Floats (Gion sairei boko), door paintings once installed in palace halls of Empress Tōfukumon’in (1607–1678)—offers a unique perspective on the imperial family and its role in the so-called classical revival in art of the early Edo period (1600–1868).1 (See Plates 14–15.) Born into the ruling Tokugawa clan seven years after their ...

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pp. 207-212

The essays in this volume reveal both the advantages and the disadvantages inherent in the topic “Classicism in Japanese Art of the Early Edo Period.” The notion of a classical revival in the seventeenth century has a venerable academic pedigree and considerable support from visual evidence. A great many seventeenth-century paintings and works of craft decoration contain images ...

Appendix: Artists and Schools

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pp. 213-216


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pp. 217-224

Kanji List

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pp. 225-236

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 237-260


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pp. 261-262


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pp. 263-272

Images Follow Page 132

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E-ISBN-13: 9780824862046
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824826994

Publication Year: 2004